PLAYING his first Challenger level match since he was 17, Bernard Tomic negotiated a first-round win on what could be a chastening but rewarding climb back to tennis prominence.
A Wimbledon quarter-finalist at 18, Tomic edged out Ricardas Berankis, of Lithuania, 7-6 (7-6), 6-2 in the first round of a $ A160,000 Challenger event at Bratilsava, Slovakia.
Tomic, who has dropped to No.144 in the rankings with 13 first-round losses this year in ATP and Grand Slam events, has entered Challenger events in Slovakia and also Italy this month.
It’s a ray of hope that his stoic admirers can see as a willingness to undertake the hard yards needed to rebuild his career.
Andre Agassi used to tell the story about how he took on the chin the changed circumstances in his tarnished career in 1997, when he fell to No.141 in the world and lost a Challenger final in his home city, Las Vegas.
Tennis Australia said there has been no indication from Tomic whether he will contest the best-of-five set invitation event offering an Australian wildcard, which is played in mid-December.
Tomic was an underdog on the rankings against Berankis, who sat three places better than him in the standings.
The 25-year-old harnessed 11 aces to book a second-round place against either the former Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz or seventh seed Norbert Gombos.
TA chief executive Craig Tiley said last week TA had “reached out to provide support beyond tennis’’ to Tomic, but would not be drawn on summer circuit wildcard provisions for the battling former Australian No.1.
It is not clear yet if Tomic will enter TA’s Australian Open wildcard playoffs series in mid-December which requires the men to play the best of five sets.
In Japan, Brisbane’s eighth seed John Millman won his first-round match at the Kobe Challenger 6-3, 6-4 over local Yuya Kibi.